Break out recipes for egg-centered dishes

Time to break out recipes for a few egg-centered dishes, like ham and asparagus quiche. BY JACK CLEMONS
April 28, 2014

In order to dye Easter eggs last week, we made sure to have an extra dozen fresh eggs in supply. After a change in plans, we found ourselves stuck with far too many eggs. Time to break out (no pun intended) recipes for a few egg-centered dishes, like the quiche in the photo, which incorporated some tweaks.

In a recent Minneapolis Star Tribune column, a local baker described replacing the typical butter-based pastry crust (known as pâte brisée) with a sturdier crust she touted as much easier to manage for her quiches. The other change she made was substituting a tablespoon of lemon juice for some of the ice water in the recipe.

To prevent sogginess, her crust, as well as the traditional crust, needs to be blind-baked. This step is so named because the pastry shell will be baked while it’s empty of filling, but full of pie weights to keep the pastry flat in the pan. The baked pastry shell will need to cool slightly before adding the quiche contents -again, to prevent sogginess.

Most quiche recipes advise precooking the vegetables and meat ingredients. The one exception I’ve found is thinly sliced asparagus, which is better mixed in raw to avoid disintegration. There are some vegetables that aren’t a good fit for quiche because their excess moisture will ruin the custard. Consider a couple of potential ingredients that might seem overly damp but can be winners: spinach and zucchini.

Despite decent arm strength and thick piles of paper towels, I’ve never been able to completely remove the excess water from a box of defrosted frozen spinach (which is a much less costly and far more convenient choice than fresh spinach for this dish). The solution I’ve found is to get out as much water as possible and then toss the chopped spinach in a skillet with sautéed onions and a light dusting of flour.

Zucchini, which is full of water, wouldn’t work well in a quiche if you sliced it, but performs beautifully when it’s grated. Again, moisture is removed by squeezing the shreds in paper towels, and the final drying step is time spent in the skillet with butter and minced shallots. Not only does the water evaporate, but you’ll also heighten the flavor.

For a well-balanced quiche, you need a combination of soft and sharp flavors. I always include a member of the allium family that’s been finely chopped and sautéed - leeks, onions, green onions or shallots. Cheese with bold flavor is a better choice than one without personality. For example, feta, Parmesan, sharp cheddar and Swiss all announce their presence more effectively than a quiet American or Monterey Jack.

You can stop here and produce an elegant cheese quiche, or you can add some meat to the dish. Toss in shredded rotisserie chicken, crumbled bacon or sautéed sausage for smoky notes and richness. The final and most important source of richness will come from the addition of milk and cream that are whisked with eggs to form the custard base. Purists advise straining this egg mixture to ensure there’ll be no undesirable lumps.

I’ve included recipes for both a pâte brisée and Amy Kelsch’s pastry crust, which has become my new favorite.
As for the filling, here are two combinations that we’ve enjoyed: an apple sausage quiche that’s perfect for breakfast and the asparagus ham quiche in the photo. Of course, we’ll be building a few more until we run out of eggs.

Pâte Brisée

3/4 C flour
5 T butter
1/4 t salt
1/4 t sugar
2 T water

Preheat oven to 425 F. Cut the butter into small pieces and place in a large bowl with flour, salt and sugar. Mix with your hands or a pastry blender until all the butter pieces are coated with flour. Add the water and knead mixture into a ball, working the dough as little as possible.

Turn out dough onto floured surface and roll into a 12-inch round. Place dough in 9-inch pie pan and crimp the edge.

Cover the pie shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake for 7 minutes; remove weights and parchment. Bake an additional 5 minutes; cool slightly before filling. Yield: 1 crust.

Amy Kelsch’s Pastry Crust*

1/2 C butter
1/2 t salt
1 egg yolk
2 C flour
3 T water
1 T lemon juice

Cream butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer at medium-high speed. Add egg yolk and mix until smooth. Reduce speed to low and add flour, water and lemon juice, mixing just until combined. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 12-inch round. Place crust in a deep 9-inch pie pan and crimp edges. Line pan with parchment paper and cover with pie weights. Bake 30 minutes.

Remove crust from oven; remove weights and parchment paper. Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork and bake an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Yield: 1 crust. *Adapted from the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Apple Sausage Quiche

1 blind-baked pastry shell
1/2 lb ground pork sausage
1/3 C chopped onion
1/4 t thyme
1 C peeled, diced apple
1 T lemon juice
1 t brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/4 C light cream
1/2 C grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cook sausage in a skillet until no longer pink, breaking up lumps into a uniform crumble.

Drain on paper towel; set aside. In the same skillet, sauté onion and thyme in the sausage drippings until onions are almost golden.

In a small bowl, toss the apples with lemon juice and brown sugar; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until light and fluffy. Whisk in the cream; then stir in cheese, apple, sausage and onion. Pour the mixture into the shell and bake until set, about 50 minutes. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Ham & Asparagus Quiche

1 blind-baked pastry shell
1 T butter
1 minced shallot
2/3 C diced ham
2/3 C thinly sliced asparagus tips
3 eggs
1 1/4 C half and half
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/8 t nutmeg
1 t snipped chives
3/4 C shredded cheddar cheese
1 T shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F. Melt butter in a small skillet; sauté shallot and ham until lightly browned.

Remove from heat and add asparagus; toss to combine and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, vigorously whisk eggs until smooth.

Add half and half, stirring to combine. Stir in seasonings; set aside. Scatter the ham, shallot and asparagus mixture across the bottom of the pastry shell. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese and chives evenly across the pastry.

Pour in the egg mixture and top with Parmesan.
Bake until set, about 45 to 50 minutes. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Cooking with Herbs demo

I’ll be conducting a demo on Cooking with Herbs at the Cordrey Center at noon, Saturday, April 26, as part of the Flower and Arts Festival at East Coast Garden Center, 30366 Cordrey Road in Millsboro.  For information call 945-3489.

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